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Horse Shows: Preparation and Competition Tips

Updated on June 5, 2019
DonnaCSmith profile image

Donna Campbell Smith is an author, freelance writer, and photographer. She has an AAS degree in equine tech and is a certified instructor.


Packing for the horse show can be an overwhelming chore, especially for an over-night event. It seems like you are taking everything but the kitchen sink. But, with a little organization and a list, it is possible to arrive at the show, unpack and find you have everything you need. Well, that might be asking for too much, but at least you'll lessen the number of times you'll make the tack vendor smile, while you purchase all that stuff you forgot to bring.

Going to the horse show is a little like going on a camping expedition, only worst. Not only do you have to carry supplies for yourself, but also everything needed to care for your horse for as many days as you will be at the show.

And since the horse is the star of this event, lets start with Ole Paint's suitcase. Before you even get through the gate you will need his health certificate and Coggins test. If you have forgotten those important pieces of paper, life will get unpleasant right away. You'll have two choices, go home or wait outside the show grounds, while someone calls your vet and has him fax the documents to the show management. Meanwhile, Ole Paint is in the hot trailer stomping impatiently and your child, who is going to be showing in the junior exhibitor classes, is whining in the backseat.

Once you are admitted onto the grounds and have found your stalls you must make your horse feel at home in his strange surroundings. You'll have to purchase shavings, unless you brought your own, hang buckets, and check the stall carefully for any nails or other objects that might injure him. After you've done this you can put Ole Paint in the stall. Make sure he has water and toss him a flake of hay to munch while you finish unpacking. Sometimes feed and hay can be purchased at the show. But, it's not a good idea to change your horse's diet; he's already under stress being in a different environment. Take feed, hay and a salt block from home. For real picky horses you might even have to bring water from home.

In addition to your tack, you will need your grooming supplies. That includes brushes, sponges, hoof pick, clippers, clipper oil, towels, hair polish, and hoof polish or conditioner. In addition pack scissors, duck tape, baby oil, and an extension cord. In hot weather your horse will appreciate a fan. Pack one for the tack room or wherever you'll be hanging out between classes.

A first aid kit should always be carried to the show. Basics are fly spray, alcohol, antiseptic salve, cotton balls, and bandages. Remember the two-legged participants and carry antacid tablets, small bandages for minor cuts, and pain reliever.

A toolbox is another must. You will need a hammer, pliers, nails, eye screws, snaps, duct tape, and screw drivers. And while speaking of tools, don't forget the muck bucket and pitchfork. You will also need a water hose and extra buckets.

For your comfort while waiting between classes take along some lawn chairs (one for everybody, plus guests who might stop by) a small folding table, snacks and drinks, and camera and extra batteries.

How many of you have ever packed everything, checked it twice, and then while getting ready to show you learn you forgot your boots! Be sure you've packed your show attire. In addition to your habit, you'll need gloves, socks, belt, tie, and girls; don't forget hairpins, net and hairspray. Saddleseat riders usually wear a lapel pin or tiny rosebud on their coat lapel.

Once I took my daughter to a show and just as we were tacking up to enter a class we discovered we'd left the girth home. Happily, someone was gracious enough to loan us one. Pack extras and maybe you can be someone's lifesaver.

Yes, it can really add to the stress of a horse show to find out at the last minute that you are missing some very important item. Your horse can pick up on your mood, and become nervous, too. So, save yourself the worry and keep a checklist handy. Go over it item by item before you leave your stable, and have a great time at the horse show!

I have made a list for you. You may need to add to it, or delete some of my items. The blank lines are for your additions. The point is, "You need a list!"

Horse Show Check List

Horse Show Check List

Health Certificate and Coggins Test.



Salt/Mineral block


Saddle, girth and pad


Show halter

Schooling bridle

Martingale (or any other training aids you normally use)

Safety Helmet

Splint boots, wraps, etc. if you use them.


Riding habit (or shirt, pants, chaps)




Boots and Socks


Hairnet, hairpins, jewelry

Grooming and First Aid


Hoof pick

Baby oil


Clipper oil


Fly spray

Hoof polish

Antiseptic salve


Cotton Balls





Pain reliever






Eye Screws


Extension cord

Pitch fork, rake, and broom

Muck bucket

Water hoses

Saddle Racks

Bridle hanger

Feed, water, extra buckets




Camera & film

Snacks & drinks

Fan & another extension cord

Tarp (for dirt free floor in tack stall. Also, another tarp or pieces of canvas for the horse to stand on while you polish his feet.

Stall curtains and decorations.

© 2008 Donna Campbell Smith


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